Sharp Hones Partner Plan

The Mahwah, N.J.-based vendor also is working on plans to offer solution providers as much as 22 percent in hardware margins.

Under the new program, Sharp will work with Tech Data to qualify resellers in general distribution for product sales and will require additional training and other commitments from solution providers wanting to offer services.

In addition to the high hardware margins, the new partner program will provide enhanced marketing support, automated help-desk support with streaming-video answers to frequently asked questions for resellers and their clients, and additional network management capabilities, according to the company.

Ed McLaughlin, president of Sharp, said the company has learned from its prior unsuccessful attempts to enter the commercial IT reseller channel.

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McLaughlin acknowledged that Sharp will be up against a market full of other document vendors.

"It's a popular place to be," he said. "I like crowds. A crowded market is a market that is attractive and a lot of people want to play there."

McLaughlin said Sharp's new effort in the channel promises strong profit margins for resellers, document technology focuses heavily on network security and a policy that eschews any direct sales.

"As long as I am here, we will not sell direct," McLaughlin said.

Sharp is also expanding its product breadth with the introduction of six new multifunction peripherals. The DM-3551 and DM-4551 units each are available in three different configurations: basic print and copy, network scanning capability, and both network scanning and fax capability.

Distributor pricing for the new models, available now, will be $10,599 to $13,599.

Harry Fields, president of Chattanooga Business Machines, a solution provider and Sharp dealer in Chattanooga, Tenn., said the vendor has been aggressive in updating its product line in the office automation space. He said that while he would welcome higher margins, the 18 percent to 22 percent margins would not represent much more than what he now gets.